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Threads eLetter

There Is a Right Way to Baste by Hand

Use hand basting to prepare your garment for machine sewing when pinning is awkward or not precise enough. If you need to secure the thread at the beginning or end, use a backstitch, not a knot. Clip the backstitch before you pull out the basting -- you’re more likely to forget a knot is there and pull it through your fabric, causing damage. Here are four hand-basting stitches that come in handy.

Even basting
This long running stitch is quick, easy, and strong. To sew it, take even 1/4-inch stitches.

Uneven basting
Use uneven basting to transfer pattern marks onto your fabric when a pencil or marker is inappropriate. To sew it, take alternating long and short running stitches, placing the longer stitches on the right side of the fabric.

Diagonal basting
Use this simple tailoring stitch to hold two layers of fabric together. It’s good for preparing seams on slippery fabric or for keeping stripes aligned or making sure a pocket doesn’t shift when you sew it on. It’s also good for basting facings or hems in place for a fitting.

To sew diagonal basting, work from top to bottom. Take a horizontal stitch through both fabric layers. Move the needle down the length desired for the stitch; take another horizontal stitch. Repeat until you reach the bottom of the fabric. Create as many rows as needed to hold the layers firmly together.

Slip basting
Slip basting is a very secure stitch, used to attach a folded edge to a second, flat piece of fabric. It is worked from the right side of the fabric. To begin, press under the seam allowance of one piece. Place both pieces right side up; pin the folded edge onto corresponding piece along the seamline.

To sew slip basting, slip the needle through the fold of the top fabric. Push the needle forward 1/8 inch, pick up a tiny amount of the under layer. Push the needle forward again 1/8 inch, and sink it back into the fold. Move the needle forward about 1/4 inch inside the fold and repeat.

Unfold the top fabric and then machine-stitch along the seamline.

-- Fred Bloebaum

Adapted from "Basics: Basting," Threads magazine, August/September 2002 (#102); drawings: Christine Erikson.

© 2002 The Taunton Press, Inc.

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